As The Office continues its slow, painful march towards the grave, Archer has put together an excellent run of episodes to open its fourth season. Tonight, we get a doubly-long edition of The Office, about which I freely admit I am not optimistic, considering that last week’s half-hour itself felt considerably longer.
It’s been a while since the NBC sitcom has managed to win this little contest. Those of you who read SitCombat on a regular basis know that I am now openly rooting for the writers to run the show into the ground. There’s simply not enough time to pull the nose of the plane up before hitting the mountain. So, why not make the show SO bad that at least we can say that they’re doing it on purpose? At least that could make for some terrific meta humor.
With that in mind, here’s hoping that fired warehouse guy comes back and manages to kill a few of the supporting characters before he’s shot by the Scranton PD. Ooh! Maybe Andy can do it!
This was SitCombat for February 14, 2013:
The Office (NBC) – “Moving On”
Tonight’s Episode: Andy and Erin navigate their break-up; Dwight enlists Angela’s help with his dying aunt; Pam has a job interview in Philadelphia.
Good Stuff: Glad Andy’s hair is back to normal . . . “Jim set up a job interview for me in Philly. It’s, um, with a real estate company, which is a great fit for me, because I…live in a house…and know what a bathroom is…” . . . Pam’s resume . . . “I have some messages for you.” “Are they from you?” . . . Clarkwork Orange . . . “Last night, I ordered a pizza by myself, and I ate it over the pizza like a rat.” “There you go! Good for you!” (*leans in for high five*) . . . “I’ll give you $100 to wear that sweater to work tomorrow.” Clark might be my favorite character on the show at this point . . . Andy not knowing Pete’s name . . . “Call you right back – what were YOU saying?” . . . And here comes Odenkirk to save the day . . . At least they acknowledged that Odenkirk was playing Michael Scott. See, that wasn’t hard, was it? Now we can roll with it . . . “Step this way for…THE SPANISH INQUISITION. Heh, heh. Kids in the Hall…” . . . Meredith now wearing a wig that looks like her real hair . . . “I’M GONNA DO DYLAN” . . . “We absolutely did. Thank you for remembering that” . . . “Question: How’s that medicine taste? Your own-flavored? Is it just me, or are these tables turned?” . . . Gabe’s desk being on a stand next to the receptionist’s desk . . . “The 80 or 90 years I have left of this life…” . . . “I don’t have the lung capacity to blow a whistle.”
Non-good Stuff: Just so we’re clear, the writers turned Andy into a completely unlikeable character, but now expect us to feel sympathy for him again. Hey, writers – screw you . . . Here’s the problem with bringing the camera crew element of this show to the fore after years of letting it fade into the background: I now think things like, “Why isn’t Dwight’s aunt reacting to the cameras? How were the cameras already in the house when Dwight and Angela arrived?” Basic rule of comedy: You can have any conceit you want, but you need to stay true to that conceit. Put simply: Don’t make a member of the crew a character after a decade on the air . . . This episode would have been a lot different (better) if Pennsylvania were a right-to-work state. Hit the bricks, Plop! . . . Odenkirk AS Michael Scott, apparently . . . The Toby / Nellie “Scranton Strangler” scene was shot awkwardly. Made it seem like they weren’t present at the same time . . . Not to beat one of many dead horses, but, again, Odenkirk reacts to the cameras, which is fine. Just saying. Internal logic, people . . . As soon as Pete mentioned “Alice,” all I could think about was Andy immediately figuring out who she is and going after her . . . Yep. And there it is . . . Actually, I’m going to flip-flop on this one. See above . . . Why would Angela stay with a guy she knew was not only secretly gay, but a manipulative jerk? . . . To recap: Pam has young kids, a job that isn’t great, and the guy she loves has a great potential opportunity in a city that’s only a couple of hours from where she now lives. What is her motivation to stick around in Scranton? I’m not saying she should have taken the receptionist’s job. That wouldn’t have made sense, either. But her attachment to Scranton is a nonsensical, contrived conflict . . . The Oscar thing came out of nowhere at the end of the episode. Odd non-sequitur.
Line of the Night: “You were the ‘It’ that I was ‘Just Doing!’” – Gabe, justifying the Nike Swoosh tattoo he got while dating Erin.
Overall: I’m of two minds on this one. It was definitely a huge upgrade from last week’s F-level performance. No boom operator, for starters. But the Andy stuff was all over the map. The good news is that it finished strong, with Andy going from an unlikable asshole last week to a funny asshole this week. That’s a plus. And Gabe, a character I didn’t like when he was a regular, stole the show. The Dwight’s aunt storyline didn’t add much, but moving to a Dwight and Angela relationship at the end is obviously something that needs to happen. So, I didn’t mind it. Jim and Pam, as usual, drain comedy from the show. The “The Office: An American Workplace” thing at the end actually intrigues me, but only if they do it the right way. I think it would be fun to air an episode of that show as the final (or second-to-last) episode, and have the entire premise be that the editing turns it into something VERY different from “The Office” sitcom we’ve been watching for almost ten years. That would actually be an idea I would applaud: An episode that makes each of the characters seem wildly different (thanks to typical reality show “cooking”) than what we’ve come to know. It would also be a way to bring back old characters / actors for the finale without having to come up with a way that they would actually be coming back in the current 2013 storyline. That is, each of them would ostensibly be appearing in what amounted to flashbacks. Or, they could just blow it and produce a run-of-the-mill clip show retrospective with different opening and closing titles and a voice-over of some kind. That would be a huge disappointment. Anyway, this was a solid effort. I would have cut the Dwight’s aunt storyline and the Toby / Strangler plot and probably tried to make it a normal half-hour show, however.
Archer (FX) – “Viscous Coupling”
Tonight’s Episode: A lonely Archer tries to win back Katya’s affections.
Good Stuff: “That’s great, Mother. Keep those periodic updates coming” . . . “Oh…meaning that’s tentacle porn.” “‘Fisherman’s Wife’ and ‘Fisherman’s Wife 2: The Rententacling!’” . . . “Rape prevention class…which, turns out, is a not-good place to meet women” . . . “DAMN YOU, TINNITUS! YOU’RE A CRUEL MISTRESS!” . . . Archer’s sideways dumb waiter . . . “Phrasing…boom” . . . Cheryl having severe bruising around her neck the day after her date . . . Bearded Barry, trapped on the space station . . . “FORT KICK ASS” . . . The octopus reveal . . . I know I say this a lot, but I love all the 70s and 80s technology everywhere on this show . . . “Because…Newton’s third law of motion?” . . . “Ooohhhh…DeGrasse-Tyson-san!”
Non-good Stuff: The opposite world gag was tedious . . . The ending didn’t entirely make sense. More on that in a second.
Lines of the Night:
ARCHER: “And is this just jack-off central?”
PAM: “Ughhhhh . . . not with all this damn racket!”
ARCHER: “Why aren’t you in position?!?”
PAM: “I am! This is how I do it!”
ARCHER: “EW! I MEANT WITH MOTHER!”
Overall: The most important thing with Archer is always the funny, and this episode had plenty of that. However, I do worry about that ending a bit. Katya turning out to have been a KGB agent all along (meaning she never defected), and this all having been a master plan to have pitted ODIN’s best agent (Barry) against ISIS’s best agent (Archer) seems more than a little complicated, especially considering that both Barry and Katya nearly should have already died. Maybe Cheryl’s “don’t overthink it” line was actually directed at this point. Anyway, like I said, the laughs are what matter most, and this was another tight episode with some good bits.
Final Thoughts: Well, The Office was decent this week, and probably had more total funny lines than Archer did. But, of course, Archer didn’t have the benefit of being an hour long. I think Archer still gets a slight nod over The Office, but I’m at least not as skeptical of the latter’s future now. In fact, I’m genuinely curious about how the show-within-a-show will work, especially since I think it has so much potential (see above). For now, though, Archer keeps its crown. And next week we get the failed pilot for the Dwight Shrute spin-off, which probably means Archer is in good shape for a third straight victory. But we’ll see.
WINNER: Archer (retains title)